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Lodges of the Rio Grande
Estancia Maria Behety is the top-rated destination in Tierra del Fuego
THE MENENDEZ FAMILY estancias once stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific and bridged the Strait of Magellan. At the turn of the 20th century all the lands now bordering the Rio Grande (in both Chile and Argentina) fell under the aegis of one man, Jose Menendez. Many of the great estancias he created have now been subdivid- ed, in a sense. Lands and properties have been sold, divided by descen- dants, bisected by national borders, and broken by conflicts between gov- ernments. What remains of Estancia Maria Behety (EMB) is astounding.
Estancia Maria Behety has been designated as a Historic National Landmark and the turn-of-the-century architecture is remarkable. Established before towns, airports, and even ferries and roads reached the island of Tierra del Fuego, the estancia had a library, school, bakery, chapel, blacksmith shop, and everything necessary to be self-sufficient. The attraction to those of us more interested in angling than architecture is the fact that the Rio Grande ranks as the top sea trout destination on planet Earth and, for a lot of reasons, there is no better place to enjoy the river than at one of the two Estancia Maria Behety Lodges.
Fewer than 7% of the sea trout in the Rio Grande are caught each season, though all the “mejores” (best) pools are known to be loaded with fish. Of course, there are pools and portions of the Rio Grande that are consistently much better than others. The number of quality beats any lodge has access to usually determines its capacity. There are lodges with access to a number of great pools inside their property and other small estancias that share only a few great pools with EMB. The two Maria Behety lodges have easy access to them all: to every great pool on the river.
Guests at both lodges enjoy fine meals and excellent accommodations.
Estancia Maria Behety flanks the entire southern shoreline of Rio Grande, from its mouth upriver to the small estancia separating it from Chile. On the opposite riverbank are six estancias and five lodges. Together those, if filled to capacity can, and often do, host a maximum of 34 fly fishermen.
EMB borders an astonishing 32 miles of river and all of the finest 102 holding pools on the Rio Grande. The two EMB lodges accept only 18 total angler, sharing half of those pools with the lodges on the opposite bank, on alternate days.
The dining schedule is built around the fishing routine, which usually begins very early and ends very late in the day.
Pairs of anglers depart each morning by vehicle with expert, well-trained, bi-lingual Argentine guides to their assigned beats after a light breakfast, fish ‘til mid
day and return to a traditional Argentine lunch, and a chance to rest up for a late evening outing followed by cocktails, and a delicious dinner. All meals are accompanied by the finest domestic wines, and the lodge features a very well stocked, open bar. Fishermen at both lodges rotate beats and guides, insuring fairness and a chance to visit and enjoy all that the estancia has to offer.
La Villa guests have a bit more formal atmosphere, and slightly more deluxe, single occupancy accommodations, while EMB Lodge is a rather casual, and informal affair. The daily destinations and quality of guides, food, wine, and service are both equal and excellent.
photos: Val Atkinson & Pilar Chevallier-Boutell

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